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What is a Credit Dispute Letter?

Published April 13, 2023
4 min read

Table of contents

Key points about: using a credit dispute letter

  1. You can contest errors on your credit report by submitting a credit dispute letter to credit bureaus online or by mail

  2. It’s important to attach supporting documentation to your letter, such as account statements that backup your claims

  3. If an error on your credit report lowers your credit score, you may reverse the damage with a credit dispute letter

Your credit report documents how responsible you are with credit, including borrowing and repayment information that informs your credit score and influences many financial milestones—from applying for certain credit cards to securing a home loan. But what happens when inaccurate information appears on your credit report and even hurts your score?

You can use a credit dispute letter to submit a formal request to one or more credit bureaus to remove or update incorrect information from your credit report. Credit bureaus usually contact the company (called data furnishers) that reported the contested information to investigate and resolve any issues. If you know where the misinformation came from, you can also send a dispute letter directly to the furnisher, i.e., credit card issuers, banks, credit unions, and collection agencies.

Because some inaccuracies on your credit report may lower your credit score, a credit dispute letter can be a valuable tool to help manage your credit history. Let’s explore more about submitting a credit dispute letter.

What information can you dispute on your credit report?

You may find inaccuracies on your credit report due to issues like errors in lender reporting, credit card fraud, or identity theft. You’re free to dispute any information you believe to be false on your credit report, including personal and account information. Here are a few examples of inaccuracies you can report using a credit dispute letter:

  • Personal information: Details like your name, address, date of birth, and social security number should be correct on your credit report. If someone else’s information appears on your report, there may be a concern with identity theft. It could also be a simple mistake like a name change your lender failed to report or a clerical error.  
  • Inaccurate authorized user status:

If your credit report lists you as an authorized user on someone else’s credit card after you’ve requested that the credit card issuer remove you, you can dispute it. Remember, as long as the lender reports your authorized user status to the credit bureaus, the primary account holder’s activity could impact your credit score

  • Accounts you didn’t open: If you see an account listed on your credit report that you didn’t open, this could be a sign of fraud. However, some of your bank or card names may be abbreviated in your credit report and look unfamiliar. Consider confirming account names before reporting discrepancies.
  • Debts listed more than once: Credit reporting errors can include account debts reported twice, making it appear as if you have double the amount of debt.
  • Erroneous late payments: A late payment may appear on your credit report even if you’ve paid on time. Correcting a false late payment record is crucial to sustaining or building good credit, as late payments significantly impact your credit score.
  • Inaccurate credit limits: Credit limit increases should appear on your credit report. And because increasing your available credit can improve your credit score, accurate credit limits matter to your credit history.
  • Outdated negative information: Credit bureaus should remove most late payments, foreclosures, and collections after seven years and bankruptcies between seven and ten years, depending on the type of bankruptcy. 
  • Fraudulent credit inquiries: If you spot credit inquiries you don’t recognize, like credit card applications you didn’t submit, this could point to fraud. 

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How to file a credit dispute letter

You can file your dispute in writing or online, though submitting your dispute online may be quicker and more convenient. Your dispute must include the necessary documentation to support your claim. Depending on the error you’re disputing, you may need documentation such as account statements or loan documents. If you’ve reported identity theft, you may need a copy of your police report or Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaint.

You’ll most likely submit a dispute to one or more of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax. All three provide instructions to help you file your credit dispute letter online or by mail. The FTC also provides a sample dispute letter you can use.

You’ll likely include the following in your dispute letter:

  • Full name
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Current address
  • A list of the items you believe to be inaccurate on your credit report
  • The creditor’s name(s)
  • The account number(s)
  • The reason you feel the information is incorrect
  • Necessary documents to support your dispute

How long does a credit dispute take to resolve?

According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), credit bureaus must investigate consumer credit disputes and resolve issues within thirty to forty-five days. If the bureau find’s your dispute insufficient, they may end the investigation. However, they are required to notify you with a reason. At this time, you may need to provide additional supporting evidence.

Will a credit dispute letter help your credit score?

Some inaccuracies on your credit report may not impact your credit score. But if an error influences one of the key indicators of your credit score, updating or removing it may improve your score right away. You can check your credit score regularly for changes. 

Whether the result of an honest mistake or fraud, inaccuracies can appear on your credit report. An essential part of maintaining the health of your credit includes checking your credit report for irregularities. And if you spot an error, a credit dispute letter may help you resolve the issue and minimize its negative impact on your credit score.

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